The 2015 Poppy rally was a big challenge for both of us as it was on the Poppy 2013 when we had a ‘meeting’ with a tree. However, we didn’t let that stop us. For the first time, Seren and myself were competing against each other, both as navigators.
After arriving in Belgium, we headed straight to Poperinge where scrutineering was being held. Patrick, my driver hadn’t arrived yet, so I was given the responsibility of doing everything myself. I stuck the rally plates on and started preparing the car, only to realise I was missing a Brantz timer! I didn’t know what to do, as I knew I would need it for the night sections. I asked around but to no avail and knew this was going to really affect my timing when it went dark.
After scrutineering it was off to do the measure distance and what an event that was. As I didn’t have a driver, I gave all my navigation information to Seren to assist her and I would follow behind so I could get the correct route. Little did I know this was going to be the most interesting measured distance ever. After zeroing my trip and entering the total distance we left the start. I had roughly memorised the route but we didn’t seem to turn right when I thought we would have, however, I knew that she had tulips, a map and a driver, therefore must be right. After turning right at a T-junction and visiting a lovely village my trip was on a ridiculous number, which I figured, couldn’t be right. Eventually we stopped and they signaled to turn around. I was in hysterics because they had all the info and went wrong! Even though Seren hadn’t navigated in over 2 years, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Not only this, during the practice reg they suggested to follow them as it finished near the hotel and they felt they needed to practice. I agreed and followed them to the start. As I approached the start board they whizzed off. Confused, I stopped, thinking to myself “I thought they wanted to practice?” 1 minute later they had reversed to stop next to me exclaiming ‘ ooops we missed it’! Again laughter filled me and I just thought about what tomorrow would bring.
We all arrived at the hotel full of energy, until we were given the plotting. It took me 6 hours to complete all the plotting and even then I hadn’t checked. I had only done Leg 1 when it was time for dinner and all I worried about was when I would have time to complete the rest. Therefore, I stayed up late to make sure I had it all down on the maps.
Moring arrived all too quickly and we left early to get to the start at Poperinge, where we were given leg 3 to plot during the day. It wasn’t long and we were out on the road to the first test at the Paintball track. I admit I was slightly terrified of this test as it was extremely slippery, but Patrick had complete control and eased us around the track finishing 1 second quicker than my sister. Although, this didn’t matter as up to coffee, Seren and Dad were beating me by 10 places and I was running 33rd overall.
I thought that we would be able to fight up the board but, as the morning continued, my ambitions were disappearing. Starting with us missing a control, a local had placed a tractor in the way and we had to make a small detour to keep on time, I was hoping that the control would be after the re route and it wouldn’t affect us to much. However, the further we travelled along the route the more I knew we had missed one. Ways to tell Patrick streamed through my head, but eventually I just told him bluntly. At Lunch I was elated to hear that they were going to have to cancel that control as no one made it to the marshal.
Lunch was just what we all needed, when we arrived there was a massive ham hock to nibble at. Unfortunately, we were slightly late arriving and only had half an hour to enjoy the feast. It was very much appreciated though.
Being on rallies, is like being on a rollercoaster as one minute all is going well and the next minute, mid reg you press the wrong button on your egg-timer, that your using instead of a stop watch, and it starts beeping to tell you that your eggs are ready. This would have been fine if I was actually cooking an egg, however, at that moment in time, it really didn’t help the process of timing
After two fast slalom tests we finally finished Leg 1 and arrived at dinner. But there was no time to rest, we needed to make sure we had plotted Leg 3 for tomorrow, as it was an early start. Seren and I spent our time comparing maps and information to make sure we had to same route and to double-check we were right. It was really lovely having a friend to compare with as it just supports your opinion. It doesn’t matter how thorough you are, we all make mistakes so it was lovely to have a companion.
It was then onwards to the night section which I had been dreading due to the lack of Brantz timer. It was an extremely tough section starting with a regularity and straight into the Timing Control section. It would have been fine, however, we ended up getting stuck behind a queue of cars at the final point on the reg, giving us a 4-minute delay at the first TC. I wasn’t surprised though, because there were cars going everywhere and I don’t think anyone knew where they were heading. We even met Seren at the red gates, during the TC and got stuck again behind a queue. This was actually a blessing disguise as we were going to be early. So this delayed us and made put us back on our time.
By morning we had jumped to 11th Overall meaning we were seeded 11th out in the morning. No rest for me then. I went straight up stairs to finish plotting leg 3. Once done, I was into bed for 5 hours sleep before the pre-breakfast section in the morning. Setting my alarm for 5:30am was not comforting.
Awake but not really alive, I wandered around the hotel waiting for 6:41 to tick by so that I could start the two regularities before breakfast. I now know that I do not operate without food. After making simple mistakes, like left instead of right, and telling Patrick the wrong speed, I decided that I needed to concentrate if we were to get back for food. I still managed to collect a lovely 9 seconds at a control but I was pleased with the 1s and 2s and the fact Patrick was still listening to me, even after asking why other cars were right behind us and going different ways.
Even though I had made numerous errors, it was evident that so had everyone else as we had gone up to 10th. This really put the pressure on meaning I would have to concentrate to stay in the top ten. Patrick was really taking it seriously as, at breakfast, he disappeared into the car to take a quick nap.
Whilst Patrick was catching up on some shuteye, Seren and I started comparing Leg 3 maps only to discover we had gone completely different routes. As we were so tired the night before, I think we both just made routes up. We corrected them together so they were the same.
It was soon time to be back on the road again for a selection of tests. The final six tests were all together, much to Patrick’s dismay. I think he was quite tired by this point as he seemed to forget that we were supposed to miss the cones and sent one flying into a neighboring field. At least it kept the marshals entertained but meant we had an extra 10-second penalty to add to the morning’s penalties.
To add to the fun of the tests, when we arrived at the final test, there was a long queue. Immediately I jumped out to get a delay only to discover that a local had decided to drive on the closed road to pick someone up. It meant a bit of a wait but a lovely time to catch up with fellow competitors. I really enjoyed being seeded 11th as it meant I was with the top navigators and able to chat and get advice quickly. Also, when arriving at venues, there was always space to park and you feel in the know. It did make me feel like I knew what I was doing, even though I really didn’t.
When we finally were called forward to drive the last test, Patrick took it upon himself to ‘drive it’. By this I mean he pushed the car to its limits. I didn’t notice at the time but as we turned 90 right after a cone, our rear tyre came full off the ground. At least we didn’t hit another cone.
By lunchtime we were both exhausted but knew that we had one last regularity before the end. The pressure was on as we were only one second behind 2nd in our class. I was worried that there was going to be a sting in the tail and we would drop down but I actually found it quite simple and it ended up being our best reg getting
Admittedly the plus 5 was a little annoying but we didn’t mind as it was the home straight. Crossing the finish line was such a relief and we thought that we had finished 11th. Amazingly, we had moved up to 10th and ended up with a top ten finish. The competition was extremely tough and I felt so proud of Seren for coming 21st overall and 3rd in class. For a driver, that is pretty impressive, so we could be making a navigator out of her yet.